Thieves are targeting a very valuable device under your car, the catalytic converter.
In January, Oceanside Police warned people about the thefts. Almost four months later, they say those thefts have not really slowed down.
"I understand it's a nationwide problem," said Robert Spasiano, who's been a jeweler for 42 years. "One of those catalytic converters can produce about $700 to $800, easy."
That's why thieves have been targeting cars for months. In January, NBC 7 Responds spoke to Brenda Marshall after the catalytic converters were stolen from her family's two Priuses.
"Ours took about 8 to 10 minutes to get both cars," Marshall said. "There were three or four other neighbors that also had theirs stolen that same night around 3 a.m."
Thieves target the devices because of the three precious metals inside: platinum, palladium and rhodium.
"Rhodium has been going up tremendously in value," Spasiano said. "It used to be about $700 to $800 an ounce, the rhodium. Now it's $29,000."
While there are only a few grams of the precious metals in each converter, the skyrocketing price makes them prime targets for thieves. Spasiano said rhodium prices are so high because it is a byproduct of mining platinum. He said there's a surplus in platinum, so fewer people were mining it.
"Because of the coronavirus, most of the mining in Africa -- where most of the rhodium comes from -- was stopped," Spasiano said. "It's going up just like Bitcoin."
Rhodium has a number of uses, but it is a key ingredient in making white gold.
"The brightness comes from the rhodium," Spasiano said. "Right now, white gold is very popular. A lot of women I see like the white gold engagement rings."
A catalytic converter can cost a lot of money to replace. Marshall told us the repairs cost about $2,700 for both of her cars. There are several ways you can try to prevent your car from being a target. They include:
- Parking in a garage or well-lit area
- Parking near building entrances or in high traffic areas
- Welding your catalytic converter to your car
- Calibrating your vehicle security system to detect vibrations
- Installing cameras that film where you park
There are also other security devices that can act as a deterrent to thieves. You can purchase a shield that can be installed under the catalytic converter.
"It's a special plate that we discovered that's a security system," Marshall said. "You can just weld it onto the bottom."